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Kansas sex crime convict challenges 2011 registry changes

A significant number of sex offense convicts could be affected by the outcome of a pending Kansas Supreme Court judgment related to the sex offender registry list. The case, which could remove scores of offenders from the registry, challenges the retroactive application of the registry to offenders with old crimes. The state's highest court will be required to rule on an amendment to the Kansas Offender Registration Act, determining whether it violates the U.S. Constitution by mandating after-the-fact punishment for sex crimes.

Current state law requires individuals who are convicted of specific drug crimes, sex offenses and violent crimes violations to be included on a law enforcement registry. The terms of registration generally span from 15 years to life. Those terms depend on the severity of the crime. So far, about 8,000 people are listed on the registry for sex crimes.

The man who is suing the state was reportedly convicted in connection with a 2003 incident. He was convicted of taking indecent liberties with a child, according to official reports. He was initially required to register for 10 years; however, the 2011 changes lengthened his term on the registry to 25 years. The state contends that this type of punishment can be considered retroactive.

Attorneys are arguing that the Kansas laws are designed to shame offenders by forcing them to remain registered longer than necessary. The initial judge's ruling in the case determined that this argument was valid. However, the state decided to appeal.

Criminal defendants have the right to fair punishment; they should not be subject to additional penalties after they have already served their term. No matter the nature of the crime, convicted criminals still deserve unbiased treatment in the court system. Retroactive penalties such as that enacted by the 2011 reforms may ultimately be found to violate convicts' rights.

Source: The Wichita Eagle, "Kansas high court to hear offender registry case" Roxana Hegeman, Associated Press, Sep. 11, 2014

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